My name is Bridget & I am 31 years old.
My story is of anxiety & depression, but also accepting who I am & not being afraid of that.
Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew I was gay. I didn’t know what gay was or what it meant, all I knew was that when I thought about getting married, I imagined getting married to another girl.
I also had an overwhelming feeling that I definitely couldn’t tell anyone this. I wasn’t really sure why, I just knew I was different & I should keep it to myself.
I’m not transgender, but as a really young child I remember thinking maybe I was supposed to be a boy, because boys like girls right? And if I’m a girl I can’t possibly like girls, so I must be a boy?? It was all very confusing. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized “oh I’m not supposed to be a boy, I’m just gay”.
My parents weren’t homophobic or anything like that & I don’t have any memories of anyone I knew talking about gay people in a negative way when I was growing up. I think it was just that it was unheard of. I’m from a small town in New Zealand & I grew up in the late eighties/early nineties. There were no gay people on tv, or visible in the community. It was something that didn’t seem to be as prevalent when I was growing up, or if it was, I didn’t know about it.
So I was struggling with my sexuality from a very young age & because of this, not liking myself very much either. I’d probably go as far as to say I hated myself for a long time & that can be very damaging. I’ve never been suicidal, but there were plenty of times when I wished I was dead.
On top of hiding my sexuality, there was always this worry lingering in the background when I was a child. I would worry about things that hadn’t even happened yet. Into my teenage years there came this constant feeling of loneliness & sadness.
I could be in a room full of people that loved me to pieces & I’d still feel miserable & I would have no idea why. I know those things now to be anxiety & depression, although at the time I didn’t have any idea what was going on with me.
It was difficult, but not something I ever talked about with anyone. I had a loving family & wonderful friends, so what did I have to be sad about? The thought of complaining felt like a cop out.
For a long time, I blamed that sad feeling on being in the closet. But that wasn’t the case.
Relationship breakdowns (both personal & professional) in my early twenties brought everything I had been repressing to the surface & I was forced to admit I wasn’t coping & needed some help.
This also started my coming out process, although I wasn’t fully comfortable coming out to new people until I was about 25.
Turns out being gay wasn’t the reason for my depression & anxiety, but they were all issues I began to tackle at around the same time.
I guess you could say I’ve conquered my own mind. I spent the best part of my life terrified of who I was & hating myself. Trying to hide from myself.
I’m gay & I suffer from mental illness. Those things are part of who I am, but they don’t define me, just as they aren’t things to be ashamed of either.
Mental health isn’t something that ever goes away or gets cured. It’s an ongoing battle that you get better at dealing with. Exercise, therapy & surrounding myself with people that care about me are all things that have helped me in my journey. It definitely hasn’t been an easy ride, but it’s one that I’m very grateful for. You’re forced to face up to yourself & you learn a lot about who you are in the process.
When I was growing up I didn’t know of anyone that was struggling with mental health or coming to terms with their sexuality. There wasn’t anyone at that time in the media or anywhere to look up to for advice. I am a pretty private person, so sharing such personal details about my life feels quite uncomfortable. However, I’ve always wondered how different my life could have been, if I had of stumbled across someone else’s story that was similar to my own, when I was struggling. If that could have made my journey a little less rocky & made me feel less isolated. If reading my story could change some else’s life for the better or help them in some small way, then I would share it a hundred times over.
Just be yourself. It’s cliché, but it’s so true. Life’s way too short & we all have so much we can offer the world in our own unique way. It would be a shame to be anything else than who you are.